Hiccups, God’s provision, and my sanity. Two of these things are guaranteed.

The whole time this post has been brewing in my head, I’ve had this mental image of sitting down having coffee w/ my second cousin, Peggy. Weird, because I’ve never sat down and had coffee w/ Peggy. And Peggy and I don’t live close to each other. But that’s just how my brain works.

And it probably means I should check in on her.

So I mentioned in the last post that we’ve had some hiccups w/ Yuan Li’s adoption. It’s almost comical. Those of you that are parents- did you ever say, “We won’t do that.” “We won’t be those parents.” “Our kids won’t do that.” before you had kids? Jon and I did all the time. Go ahead and laugh. Some of those things we’ve followed through w/. And some of those things…. Yep. Our adoption of Yuan Li’s been like that for me. In my head I couldn’t think of any reason why this adoption shouldn’t be textbook. Which is stupid, because we’ve never done anything in a normal fashion our entire marriage.

The typical process of an adoptions goes something like: fill out application w/ your prospective adoption agency, be approved in a couple of days, sign contract w/ agency, paperwork out the wazoo, wait on being matched w/ a child, people doing paperwork, more waiting, more paperwork, yada yada yada, the government says you can travel, you book your tickets, maybe you throw up, you go meet your kid, more paperwork, appointment, appointment, paperwork, appointment, kid gets cleared, you travel back home, you experience the “airport party” that you’ll vaguely remember because you’ve only slept 4 full hours in the last 2 days, go home, begin your new normal- whatever that is.

Well, we’re “normal” in the sense neither of us have been arrested before, we know who we’re adopting already, and because he’s older and “special needs” he should be fast tracked. All these things should make a 2-4 year process turn into a 4 month process in my head. *If you happen to be a fellow adoptive parent reading this, please pick up on the sarcasm I’m laying down. I promise I’m not quite that dense.* So we fill out the application, I send it in. I tell our caseworker to be looking for it. Great, we should be approved in a couple of days. I hear back 2 days after she receives the application, looks good, but she’s got a couple of questions. Okay, no problem.

Question 1, breeze through. Check.

Question 2, “You answered that you’ve taken an anti-depression drug before.” “Yes. After I had my daughter I went on it for a few months.” “Shouldn’t be a problem, but you’re going to have to apply for a waiver before we can approve your application.” She explained what that would look like.

I was totally calm on the phone. In my head all I could think was “Well, sh**.”

I had to get a letter from the doctor who prescribed the medication.  And the fun part- I HAD TO HAVE A PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION. I’m a mom of two 2 year olds and I’m going to be asked if I’m ever tired, sad, or angry. Ask me if I was nervous. Actually, Jon did ask me and I told him I was fine about it. I lied.

I began calling psychologists in town trying to get an appointment that fits w/in a window of time we were allotted. Only one even came close and it was going to be tight. I made the appointment and the doctor’s assistant was super sweet and understanding. She told me she would let me know if there were any cancellations and she would try to get me in earlier. She was true to her word and she called the next week, but I couldn’t make that appointment. She called again several days later and I took the appointment. Never mind that it was the end of the month, pay day wasn’t for several days, and I needed to come up w/ over $700 in 12 hours.

But just like always, my God made sure the provision was there. And in true we’re-adopting-but-have-no-money-to-adopt fashion, He brought people out of the woodwork to partner w/ us. I know it’s really easy to bag on Facebook, but when it comes to networking, you can’t beat it.

Commercial break: Yuan Li, I’m going to sit you down at the computer in a few years and show you where all these posts are. You’re going to get to read stories of all the people who championed for you. And you’re not going to be able to deny that God loves you and has orchestrated your life beautifully. We get to have you as our son, but you’re part of a much bigger story than just you, just our family, and just your adoption.

The psych eval went smoothly. It was LONG, but I really liked the doc I ended up seeing and felt extremely validated by him. Maybe I’m not crazy after all. But the report’s being written, so I guess the jury’s still out.

If we come to mind, will you pray along w/ us that the Chinese government will be quick in granting us our waiver? At this point in our process we can’t even get information on Yuan Li so the more time that passes, the more disconnected I/we feel from him. The kids are asking about him less and less and that’s weird to me. Adoption is a unique kind of Refiner’s fire, it seems.

Of, through, and to Him…




So we’re adopting from China…

Did you hear our news? The Stepan crew is growing +1. Our big, grey couch will have another bum parked on it! There’s an amazing, sweet-natured, quiet but giggly 6 year old boy in China who needs a family. And we feel like God’s called us to be that family.

I’ve always known about the orphan. I’ve always been able to say w/ great earnest that I care about the orphan. Y’all, our country’s foster care system is packed full of social orphans. And Jon and I truly have a tender heart towards them and fully intend to do what we feel God’s calling us to do about it as soon as he says, “Now.” We have friends that have traveled all over our globe and minister to orphans and share stories so vivid, I almost feel like I’m there, too. But in the last few months I’ve had a weird sort of Aha! moment and realized that I’ve never really been wrecked by the faces on TV or in blog posts of kids w/out a family to care for them and love them unconditionally. But there’s been something about Yuan Li that God’s used like sandpaper to leave me so raw.

I love learning about the names of God and the story that garnered him that name. I think it’s because someone had an intimate, intense encounter w/ him in some shape, form, or fashion that called for God to express some facet of his character. And boom! He gives us the gift of a name that enables our human brains to grasp something that really is way bigger than we can comprehend this side of heaven. Like God Who Sees. We know that God totally sees Yuan Li and we pray every day that he fiercely comforts him in our absence. God’s earning a new name in our family- God Who Interrupts. Any Hebrew scholars out there able to help me out w/ that one? Jon and I committed to each other early, early in our marriage that we would hold loosely to our plans and be as quick as we possibly knew how w/ our Yes if we felt like God called us to something. And, holy cow, God has held us to that over and over.

When we were getting ready to begin our family, we tried the old fashioned way and began trying to get pregnant. Our plan was to have a belly baby and then adopt all our kids after that. Long story short, in the beginning of our trying we felt like God was telling us that the time to adopt was upon us. We’ve felt like all adopted kids would come out of the foster care system and our heart was for slightly older kids. So we did our homework, attended the meetings, and gathered the paperwork in hopes that we would adopt a 3-4 year old little boy. We kind of cringed at the thought of a baby because we’re both way stingy w/ our sleep. And everybody knows newborns and restful sleep don’t mix. The day after we started filling out our paperwork we got a slightly random phone call about a young man we knew who had gotten his ex-girlfriend pregnant and they were seriously looking at finding an adoptive family. On January 6, 2011 I stood in the bathroom getting ready for a wedding I was shooting and listened to Jon have a phone conversation that would lead us down one of the most amazing, but gut-wrenching, roads we’ve ever walked. I was putting on mascara when I heard Jon say, “So she’s having a boy.” and vividly remember staring at my weepy mess of a self in the mirror. Jon hung up the phone and said to me, “We’re supposed to do this.” And so we did. We met w/ the young couple on January 8, both sides verbally committed to each on January 11 and our sweet boy Magnus was born on Mother’s Day, May 8, 2011. As far as trying to get pregnant went, we had been given a small window of time by my doctor to try and didn’t fit in that window. So while the adoption stuff was starting, I made the appointment w/ my doctor to begin some treatments that I was told I was going to need. We went out to Fort Worth for our first sonogram to see Magnus and I was having to make Jon pull over as we’re flying down the freeway so I could throw up. Do you see where I’m going w/ this? We got back home and I had my appointment at the doctor’s. Yep, I was 10 days preggers. Our daughter, Elliott, was born 5 months after her brother. I don’t think I can count on one hand how many times my God Who Interrupts made himself known in that season of our life.

Fast forward. Our kids are both toddlers and I’d been getting the itch to bring in our next kiddos. This time was definitely going to be out of the foster system. And we were standing strong at adopting older- probably somewhere between 12 and 18. But our house size and bedroom setup isn’t very conducive so I would just sit at the computer and look through the waiting kids in the system and beg God to make a way. While this is going on, my friend Wendy announces that her family is hosting a young Chinese boy with some medical needs for the summer. The first time I laid eyes on Yuan Li was the hosting program’s picture she posted on her blog. Wendy had mentioned that they didn’t feel like they were supposed to adopt him (they’re getting ready to move their family of 11 to South Sudan!), but thought friends of theirs would. So “how did we feel about adopting a special needs Chinese boy?” Wendy, I don’t know if you’re reading this, but as interested as I tried to act at the time- I totally blew it off in my head! Thankfully, God loves us enough to interrupt. And as I met him and watched him, my heart totally began to become tender towards this kid who’s now going to become our son. I began to work w/ Wendy at trying to get a medical visa lined up for Yuan Li to come back to the States for surgery and Jon and I agreed to host him if it happened. We thought we would have time to make the decision of adoption. The effort to get a medical visa started having some road blocks. There was alot of back and forth and questioning about whether we should begin the adoption process, but the moment it was solidified in me was the night before Yuan Li flew back to China and he made a video for Magnus and Elliott to tell them bye. I laid in bed and cried the ugly cry for almost an hour. I couldn’t fathom not reuniting him w/ our kids who love, and all out adore, him. For Jon, it happened when we were able to sit down w/ a dear couple who had adopted their daughter out of China 11 or 12 years ago. We walked out of that meeting w/ Jon having the peace he needed and we knew, as a couple, right then.

Some may want to give me the bird finger for getting to say this… but Magnus’ adoption was so smooth, and so quick. We got spoiled. And I know it. God was gracious to us beyond belief. The thought of dealing w/ the government of another country and totally being at their mercy, rushing to get paperwork done only for it to sit on someone’s desk- well, that makes me want to hurl. So dear friends and family, if you see the occasional Facebook post and we’re in the yucky trenches of the adoption process, would you please pray alongside us? We’ve been daily asking for favor and that God would be putting people in Yuan Li’s life that love Him and love Yuan Li, and that they would demonstrate God’s love to him. We’re still extremely early in our process and are already encountering hiccups, but we’ll get through them. It’s going to be several months before Yuan Li’s going to know that we want him and are coming for him. And that’s hard on my Momma heart. But we’re hoping we can have him w/ us by next year’s holidays. Because he’s special needs, both because of his age and his medical condition, he should be fast tracked through the system. Of course, fast track is still 15-18 months according to our caseworker. Concerning his medical needs: he is extremely healthy and is super smart and well-adjusted. But he does have some physical deformities that are of a sensitive nature and we’ll address w/ surgery when he gets here. But his medical needs are not something that are life threatening and make us fear for his well being while he’s away from us. I’ll share more as things progress, but I wanted you all to know that his condition’s not something we’re fearful about, and as far as we know, he’s being taken well cared for.

Of, through, and to Him… -Sarah